News Highlights: Eritrean football players flee in Uganda, EU relocation deal stays limited, Human trafficker participated in Italy migration meeting

In this week’s news highlights: Eritrean football players flee during tournament in Uganda; Businessman involved in corruption scandal in South Sudan; 4000 displaced people are missing in South Sudan; new food price list set by the Eritrean government; Only three additional countries participate in relocation system; EU officials visit Turkey, followed by Turkish invasion of Northern-Syria; UN warns of setbacks in battle against statelessness; Italian coast guard finds 13 bodies in the Mediterranean Sea; Asylum process to be cut down to four months in Italy; Human trafficker participated in migration meeting in Italy; Protests against detention centres in Libya supported by Swiss MPs; and EU delegation pushes for closures of detention centres in Libya.


Greater Horn of Africa

Eritrea: Five Eritrean football players flee during tournament in Uganda
Five Eritrean football players fled from their hotel, while participating in a tournament in Uganda. Reuters informs that it is anticipated that the players will be “planning to seek asylum, which some Eritrean sports players have done in the past while travelling abroad”. Meanwhile, extra security efforts have been taken to ensure that the additional players on the team will not try to escape as well. Reuters further reports that the authorities in Uganda have not yet obtained any official asylum claims from the five players of the Eritrean team.

South Sudan: Corruption scandal in South Sudan is linked to businessman
The Sudanese business man, Ashrat Seed Ahmed Hussein Ali (also known as Al-Cardinal) has allegedly been involved in a corruption scandal informs a new investigative report by The Sentry. The report alleges that he “set up private businesses with ruthless military generals, imported military equipment during a bloody civil war and even scored lucrative contracts linked to the implementation of the peace deal”. Al-Cardinal’s actions also involve collaborations with the South Sudanese army, importing weapons from Russia, as well as receiving millions of dollars from the government of South Sudan.

South Sudan: 4,000 internally displaced people still missing
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) concludes that an estimated 4,000 South Sudanese people are still currently missing as a result of the former civil war which afflicted many civilians. Manager in charge of the file for missing persons for ICRC, Precious Eriamiatoe, explains that “[t]his is only a drop in the ocean considering the large numbers of internally displaced persons and South Sudan refugees”. ICRC is working on finding many of the missing persons both through a tracing process, where people can report their lost relatives and friends, as well as through a photo book, where people can insert pictures of their missing loved ones.

Eritrea: Government passes new food price lists
The Eritrean government publicly announced a new food price list. In the announcement, translated and published on Asmarino, it is stated that shop-keepers will be punished if they sell food for a higher price or if they “hoard up merchandise and send customers away. It also reads that “this measure is enforced in order to help or benefit everyone. The public is encouraged to report those who disregard the announcement”. Asmarino further points out that as an example, apples and peaches currently cost 51 Eritrean Nakfa and notes this is a high price considering the starting salary of a national service recruit is 500 Eritrean Nakfa a month.


Europe: Only three additional countries will take part in the new, voluntary relocation system
Only Ireland, Luxembourg, and Portugal have agreed to be involved in the new relocation system, arranged by Finland, France, Germany, Italy, and Malta on September 23. Luxembourg’s minister for migration, Jean Asselborn, claims that member states which have previously been refusing to accept migrants and refugees “remain against it”, reports The Associated Press. The new system amongst the member states will continue until the new college of commissioners takes over in November.

European Union: EU officials visit Turkey to maintain refugee deal, followed by Turkish invasion of Northern-Syria
EU officials visited Turkey to discuss the EU-Turkey refugee deal. The main reason for the visit was recent threat of Turkey’s President Erdogan to “open the gates” for migrants and refugees to go to Europe and the overcrowded refugee camps in Greece, reports Deutsche Welle. German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, recognizes that Turkey faces a lot of migration pressure “[a]nd that is why we must look at how this pact between the European Union and Turkey can be strengthened”. According to Seehofer, extra funding is possible besides the already allocated €5.8 billion. On October 9, Turkish military forces invaded Northern-Syria, to counter terrorism and to create a “safe zone” to allocate some of the refugees currently residing in the country, argues Aljazeera.

Italy: 13 bodies found in the Mediterranean
The Italian coastguard found the bodies of 13 women in the Mediterranean Sea who drowned after the migrant boat in which they were in overturned. Two rescue boats found the vessel when it was already tilting over “but the adverse weather conditions and the sudden movement of migrants caused the vessel to overturn”, a coast guard official said to Reuters. The rescue ship was able to save 22 people.

Italy: New migrant decree curtails asylum application process to four months
The Italian government has formulated a new approach to processing asylum applications, which curtails the waiting time down to four months. Italian Foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, explains that the reason for Italy to change the process is to present “a clear message that those who need help are welcome but those who, based on international rules, cannot stay here will be repatriated”, reports ANSA. Along with this, Italy has also renewed the list of “safe countries of origin” of migrants, which includes 13 African and European countries. People from those countries may be subject to an accelerated procedure of just five days.

United Nations: Battle against statelessness threatened by nationalism
On October 7, the UN Refugee Agency’s Executive Committee held a special meeting to discuss the progress on its actions against statelessness. Before the meeting, Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, announced that in recent years a lot of progress has been made to end statelessness for good. “And yet the progress is far from assured: damaging forms of nationalism, and the manipulation of anti-refugee and migrant sentiment – these are powerful currents internationally that risk putting progress into reverse”, Grandi stated. The commissioner argued that actions need to be intensified to end statelessness by 2024.

North Africa

Libya/Italy: Notorious human trafficker took part in Italian meeting on migration
One of the most notorious human traffickers, Abd al-Rahman al-Milad (also known as Bija) participated in a meeting on migration from Libya to Europe held in May 2017 in Italy. Avvenire shows pictures of Bija during the meeting and accuses the Italian government of being aware of Bija’s activities as well as being aware of his presence at the meeting. During the meeting, Bija was addressed as a representative from the Libyan Coast Guard. The International Organization for Migration rejects that participants at the meeting knew who he was. The UN blames Bija for being responsible for deaths, human trafficking and being associated with the Libyan mafia.

Libya/Switzerland: Swiss MPs support protests against detention centers in Libya
A demonstration was held to address the circumstances of refugees and migrants in the Libyan detention centers on 4 October in Geneva. The demonstrators presented a letter to the UN Human Rights Commissioner in which the inhumane conditions in the Libyan detention centers were described and in which they urged Europe to alter its resettlement strategies. Two Swiss politicians, Carlo Sommaruga and Jocelyn Haller, expressed their support to the demonstrators and “pledged to convey the message of Eritrean justice seekers to higher decision-making bodies in Switzerland”, Harnet reports.

Libya/EU: EU delegation pushes for better conditions for refugees and migrants and the closure of detention centres in Libya
On October 2nd, the European Union Delegation to Libya gave a statement on behalf of the recently-established Post-Tajoura Working Group, saying that the Libyan government must give attention to the detention centres in the country. The Working Group pushed for the Libyan government to keep its promise of closing the Tajoura detention centre as well as to keep in mind the horrors occurring in other centres. It is emphasized in the statement that evacuations of people in the centres must be prioritized. The statement comes three months after the air-strike on the centre as a sign of “memory for the victims”.